Nobody's quite certain who first strapped bindings onto a single snow ski, charged down a snow-covered mountain and invented the snowboard.
But, according to Lee Crane, managing editor of the Oceanside-based magazine "Transworld Snowboarding," it goes back to at least '66 or '67.
"About that time, a man named Sherman Poppin bolted two skis together and made a stand-up sled for his kids. It wasn't until 1979, however, that a company called "Snurfer" became the first to commercially manufacture snowboards," Crane said.
From a mere handful of regular participants in the early 1980s, snowboarders have multiplied geometrically. The sport has grown steadily each year. In 1990, it was estimated that more than 1.6 million people snowboarded at least once.
Many local surfers, skateboarders and skiers, usually in their teens or early 20s, have taken up snowboarding.
Two of the biggest renters of snowboards in North County--Hobie Oceanside, a water sports and ski shop on Hill Street in Oceanside, and Hansen's, a water sports and ski shop on Highway 101 in Encinitas--run out of their 25 or so rental snowboards nearly every weekend of the winter.
Snowboarders move fast, carve deep tracks and sometimes fly (a trick called getting air). But being able to carve a hard turn or get air costs time, money and many bruises.
Lee Crane is in agreement with most proficient snowboarders when he suggests that beginners take lessons. According to Crane, "With lessons it takes between four to eight hours to learn the basics. Without lessons it takes a lot longer, and the potential for injury is increased."
In North County, lessons are given without ever leaving the coast. Adventure Ski School, located in Hansen's parking lot offers one-hour lessons for $40.
The basics of snowboarding are practiced on a steep incline covered by an upwardly rotating carpet. According to Mark Tanabe, the school's snowboarding instructor, the machine does not create the speed of moving down a mountain, but it does help the beginner learn the basics without moving too fast. "Then, when he goes to the snow he understands how things work. It isn't as scary, and he'll learn a lot faster," Tanabe said.
Once a beginner gets to the snow, however, most suggest at lest one other lesson, costing about $35 per hour.
Even with the lesson, snowboarding is tough to learn. According to Steve Cleveland, an accomplished and long-time surfer from Oceanside who recently took his first lesson at Snow Summit. "Snowboarding is a lot more difficult than it looks, and when you fall it can really hurt." Most beginners report feeling equal parts pain and frustration. Once they get beyond the learning stage, however, they mostly speak of freedom, speed and obsession.
Mt. Baldy, Snow Valley, Snow Summit and Mountain High all rent snowboards and give lessons. They are just over two hours from home for most North County residents.
In North County, snowboards can be rented at a variety of surf and ski shops including Hansen's and Hobie Oceanside. Boots and a board rent for about $20 for one day, $30 for two days and $40 for three days. Also necessary to enjoy snowboarding, on all but the warmest days, is a parka ($200 to $350) and gloves ($80 to $100). Snowboard pants ($200) are padded in key areas and are recommended in order to stay warm, dry and decrease the potential for injury. Lift tickets run about $32 a day.
Novice snowboarders should consider renting various types of boards and boots before buying. This not only educates the snowboarder, but can save a lot of money. Snowboards cost $350 to $550. Boots range from $160 to $310.
Aside from being expensive and potentially painful, snowboarding requires a lot of time, much of it in the car on the way to the slopes. So why, in these recessionary times, is it one of the world's fastest growing sports?
Mark Tanabe, the coast-bound instructor who gets to the snow at least three days a week, offers his perspective: "After a while, it's what you want to do most with your free time. The freedom of the board, the speed, the feeling that there are no limits but the ones you put on yourself become very, very attractive."